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Opinion – Stratford District Council’s new leader looks to tackle the everyday problems

THIS last set of local elections produced the biggest change at Stratford-on-Avon District Council for 22 years. And, for the first time in the council’s history, it will be led by a Liberal Democrat majority.

At the annual council meeting on 24th May, we welcomed many new councillors to the 41-strong chamber. At the meeting, I was pleased to see a good spread of ages from early 20s to much older as well as a better mix of men and women. The Liberal Democrat group now has 25 councillors, including 11 new members of the team. This balance of new councillors – with the ability to bring fresh thinking to the council – and experienced councillors – able to lead and put ambitious policies into place – will be positive for the district.

All of the new councillors are currently undergoing the intensive training that is essential to their new roles; representing residents effectively, contributing to the council’s policies and promoting good governance of the area. The most important part of their job though is helping residents of their wards with their issues and problems. If you have a new councillor, do say hello to them. I know they will be very pleased to meet you.

Knocking on doors this year has led to more conversations about national and local politics than I can ever remember in my 30+ years’ experience as a councillor. The messages were clear: residents are not happy with national politics, they want a council that listens to local concerns and they want a council that represents the whole of the district. They want a council able to engage with those responsible for poor quality housing, a lack of school places, stretched health services, sewage in rivers and for poor public transport as well as for the condition of our roads, pavements and High Streets.

However, local government is facing external pressures including a potential loss of income from central government. We must ensure that our voice is heard at a government level. Too often national policies have disadvantaged this district and have not supported our residents in the way they should.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto set out an ambitious set of aims and objectives. We want to support local people, work with communities and tackle the everyday problems as well as deal locally with much bigger issues such as climate change and a deteriorating environment. This means providing excellent, value-for-money services that deliver now while at the same time ensuring we leave the district a better place for our grandchildren.

One of the first things we’ve done, for example, is changed the way the council leadership is scrutinised and held to account for the council’s activities and spending. Instead of the ruling party chairing the scrutinising committee, its chair and vice-chair now come from the Conservative and Green opposition.

We have many challenges ahead of us, but it is important that we continue to listen and reflect on the priorities of our residents and their communities across the district. Our ambition is to lead and support the district and our communities so that Stratford-on-Avon District Council becomes known for its record of success as a community leader.

There is a great deal to be done in the months ahead.

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